CH James Fairfield is a cafe that’s recently opened up in this not quite inner not quite full-on suburban part of Melbourne. As property prices continue to increase in Melbourne and people who want an inner city lifestyle get pushed further out of the centre, suburbs like Fairfield in Melbourne’s north are starting to see some really interesting new places open up. I was invited to a preview brunch in December but unfortunately couldn’t attend because I was in Perth at the time however I took a rain check on the offer to try out some of the things on the menu, which I took up when I got back.
Owner Theo Krambias was inspired by the story of Charles Henry James, a businessman, philanthropist, politician and socialite who lived in Fairfield and, in the 1860s and 1870s represented the interests of the northern community in the Legislative Council and spent his entire life championing the potential of Melbourne’s north.
The interior is bright and cozy, with loads of natural sunlight flowing in through the large roof to floor windows that separate the inside of the cafe with the outdoor terrace, which along with tables and seating contains a number of planters full of herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Chef Franck Verschaeve (formerly of Pope Joan) heads up the kitchen, serving up a focused selection of simple, modern all-day breakfast and lunch options. There’s a big focus on local produce – in fact a quarter of the front of the menu is dedicated to outlining the names and businesses that provide the produce for CH James.
Flat White & Cappuccino ($3.50 each)
Coffee comes courtesy of North Melbourne’s Small Batch Roasting Co.. The coffees were very decent with a mild flavour designed to appeal to most palates.
Only If You’re Hungry ($19.00)
It was midday when I arrived at CH James and I’d not had anything to eat all day so the “only if you’re hungry” seemed like a natural choice. It involves thick cut bacon, roasted potatoes, chorizo, roasted tomato, chickpeas & eggs the way you want.
I asked for my eggs to be poached as (apart from the fact that it’s what I actually wanted) it’s always a good test when eating at a new place – it’s surprising how many places still manage to get poached eggs wrong. The eggs at CH James were thankfully perfectly poached, with a beautifully gooey yolk slowly flowing out of the egg white onto my toast when I pierced it with my fork.
Everything was really tasty, especially the proper thick cut bacon – in fact my only criticism was that the chickpeas seemed like a confused addition and weren’t necessary with everything on the main plate being satisfying enough on its own.
Dr Marty Crumpets, Whipped Ricotta, Strawberries & Rooftop Honey ($10.00)
I’m a big fan of Dr Marty’s Crumpets, having purchased them many times from various farmer’s markets around Melbourne. Unlike basically all crumpets that I’d ever tried before, these aren’t oily at all and have a really light, fluffy texture to them. The toppings in this case were very summer appropriate and well balanced. Very tasty.
Rhubarb & Raspberry Cola ($4.00)
I saw this on the specials card that was on the table and couldn’t resist giving it a try as it sounded quite novel. It was exactly as the description suggested, with cola being the most defining feature and the rhubarb and raspberry adding a subtle twist to the drink.
Lauren and I were really happy with what we chose to order – the food was really tasty and the prices were decent (although being an invite we didn’t pay this time). The atmosphere is really “local hangout/family friendly” and I’d certainly have no hesitation in returning. In fact, I think I’ll have to return just to try the watermelon, orange blossom, minted yogurt & granola crumb which I almost ordered instead of the crumpets.
86 Station Street
Telephone: (03) 9486 3484
Mon – Sun: 7:00am to 5:00pm